Archive for April, 2019

Time for common sense in the war between Airbnb and strata owners

By admin | 苏州桑拿

Airbnb’s latest Friendly Buildings Program could help anti-holiday letting campaigners in NSWFigures show n Airbnb hosts to make less than half of what they chargeTenants hurt as Airbnb closes in on empty rental properties in Sydney, according to new report
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The Airbnb verses apartment owners’ debate is only going to get more intense.

On one hand we have an aggressive, revenue-dominated multinational with a large advertising budget and a strong intent to lobby government.

Their opponents, many of them dwellers in strata properties, are highly fragmented and have few resources, but there’s a core of dedicated, battle-hardened strata advocates who are adept at trench warfare and have good relations with government. They won’t be a pushover.

We’re still only seeing the first forays into what could be an extended battle, though signs of compromise are emerging with the news that Airbnb is piloting its Friendly Buildings Program in the US, where a recommended 5 to 15 per cent of Airbnb booking fees will be paid to the body corporate or owners’ corporation.

This marks a shift in attitude by Airbnb, which has sought unfettered use of properties everywhere for so-called “short-term lettings”. And the Airbnb clients who list their properties have assumed it’s their right to do so.

In a sense, that’s what’s wrong with the n approach to communal living. We act as if the rights of quarter-acre-block dwellers can be transferred unconditionally into a strata living context. From barbecues on the balcony to smoking in the toilet, we are shocked to think we might have to modify our lifestyle to accommodate a strata community.

Airbnb’s business model puts enormous stress on this fundamental problem. “It’s my home, so it’s none of your business if I choose to let people take over my apartment for the week.” But it’s no longer just about the occasional overnight guest. There are people buying and leasing apartments specifically to put them onto the short-term letting market full-time. In effect, to create hotels where none were expected.

Those opposed to short-term lettings claim a number of problems – increased security risks, overcrowding, noise, anti-social behaviour, and increased wear and tear on the common property to which the short term letters don’t contribute a fair share.

How does government find a solution to this? A good place to start would be to recognise the underlying issues of both sides. Many people, legitimately, want to make their asset work better for them and earn some extra cash. Other people, legitimately, live in a building expecting it to be filled with like-minded people who want a home and not a hotel.

Short-term letting is an economic activity. For government, that means revenue; there’s not just the opportunity, but the social obligation to tax Airbnb’s n revenues. With that tax comes the government’s responsibility to properly regulate this new sector.

Here are a few suggestions for discussion I would like to see included in the government regulation debate: Allow each body corporate to determine whether or not individual units can be let on a short-term basis. Set up a system to categorise the types of short-term rental properties and let strata owners vote on the category for their building. Unlimited short-term letting could be at one end of the scale and a complete prohibition at the other end. There could be several intermediate categories with increasing requirements for security and temporary guests’ behaviour. Ensure that short-term landlords don’t get a free ride on the use (or abuse) of the common property and instigate a system of appropriate payments by the individual landlords for the increased use of common property. This could take the shape of a percentage of the short-term letting revenue payable to the owners’ corporation, a fee per lease or a bond to be placed prior to any rental start. Further regulate and enforce existing guidelines on tenants’ behaviour in regards to use and noise. Ensure appropriate controls over sub-letting – owners of rental properties should have a say in whether their investment is available for short-term letting.

As with all stakeholders in strata, Airbnb will do better if it recognises it is part of a community and focuses on what it can contribute, rather than what it and its landlords can get out of it. To be a good corporate and strata citizen, Airbnb should pay its taxes. It should expect that its client base of part-time landlords also pay taxes. Further, if body corporates start receiving income from short-term lettings, there will be tax implications for them.

Good government will recognise this by putting in place regulations that ensure all taxes are paid and that all use of common property is fully paid for.

Those against short-term lettings (and there are many of them with very valid concerns) should accept that some owners want to share their property. Instead of fighting a rear-guard action against it, the goal of the anti-Airbnb brigade should be to agitate to have government establish a good “fair use and fair pay” policy for strata living.

Paul Morton is CEO of Lannock Strata Finance, ‘s leading provider of strata loans.

Maitland Gold Cup 2017: Terry Priest hoping for home win

By admin | 苏州桑拿

IF Wild Walter can’t give him a first group title in the Maitland Gold Cup (450 metres) on Thursday night, Sawyers Gullytrainer Terry Priest hopes Ando’s Mac can do it for the Hunter.
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Terry Priest with Old Spice and its connections after he broke the Maitland track record.

Long shot Wild Walter ($36) and Richmond Vale trainer Jason Mackay’s Melbourne Cup champion ($3.80) will carry Hunter hopes in the group 2 race.

“He’s the outsider and heshould be,” Priest said of Wild Walter. “He’sa young dog and we don’t think he’s even been under lights yet, so it’s a big step but he’s been ticking the boxes for us.

“Jason’s dog isbrilliant and always hard to beat.As long as himor I win it for the Hunter Valley, that would be great.” The race is at 9.40pm.

Priest entered the series with Maitland track record-holder Old Spice as his best chance but made the decider with Wild Walter’s victory.

Old Spice was fourth in his heat and will feature in the consolation race.

“Old Spice is going good,” Priest said.

“After he broke the record he had a few injuries, back muscle injuries, and he’s getting on with age.

“I missed a fair bit of work with him leading up to the series, which was unfortunate because it is the last time he will go inthe Gold Cup, but I think he’s a good chance in the consolation race.

“He still holds the track record there, which we are very proud of, and Wild Walter is from the same mother, out of the next litter,and we’re hoping when Old Spice retires Wild Walter is the dog that can carry it forward for us.”

“It’s all for the future with him, he’s got a lot of upside and he knows the track.He’ll benefit from it,he doesn’t know the other dogs are champions, and he’ll be having a crack.”

Wild Walter has drawn six for the final, where No.8 Aussie Infrared was the early favourite.

Priest saidAussie Infrared and Ando’s Mac, which was second in his heat and has box two for the $40,000-to-the-winner final, would be the toughest to beat.

“I’m pretty sure minewon’t be up near the lead, on sectionals,” he said.“I would have rather been boxed on the inside, but you never know with interferences. Anything can happen.”

Bianca Rinehart given go-ahead to sue her mother Gina over family trust

By admin | 苏州桑拿

Bianca Rinehart has been given the green light to sue her estranged mother Gina for alleged misconduct in managing the multibillion-dollar family trust, including allegations she “improperly spent company money on personal expenses”.
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Ms Rinehart, who replaced Mrs Rinehart as the trustee following a protracted legal battle, asked the Supreme Court for judicial advice as to whether she would be justified in taking further action against her mother for alleged underpayment of mining royalties.

The mining mogul’s eldest children will claim Mrs Rinehart’s flagship company Hancock Prospecting failed to pay them and their younger siblings dividends from certain tenements. The unpaid dividends amount to approximately $500 million, of which the trustee would receive about $120 million.

They will also allege Mrs Rinehart breached her fiduciary duties when she was trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust by failing to ensure dividends were paid by Hancock Prospecting to the trust. Further, they claim she actively took steps to deny appropriate dividend payments.

Thirdly, Ms Rinehart, who is Mrs Rinehart’s second eldest child and eldest daughter, says her mother breached her duties to Hancock Prospecting by “improperly spending company money on personal expenses”.

Mrs Rinehart’s long-time executives Ted Watroba??? and Jay Newby are alleged to have been complicit in some of the alleged breaches.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, Justice Nigel Rein advised Ms Rinehart that she would be “justified” in commencing proceedings against her mother and Hancock Prospecting.

In doing so, he said he was not expressing a view as to whether any of the allegations would ultimately be made out.

Justice Rein also found Ms Rinehart would be justified in defending a related Federal Court claim bought against her.

Ms Rinehart’s solicitors told the court they expect the case to cost about $2 million to run.

“Given the history of the litigation to date, and the observations and findings of [Justice Paul Brereton] in the Trustee judgment [in 2015], it is appropriate to assume that the proceedings will be vigorously defended,” Justice Rein said.

The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust was set up by the late West n mining magnate Lang Hancock for the benefit of his grandchildren and is thought to be worth about $5 billion.

Mrs Rinehart, his only daughter, was trustee from 1992 until October 2013, when she stepped down amid a bitter court case.

In the very public battle, Mrs Rinehart and her youngest daughter, Ginia, were pitted against her eldest children, John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart.

Her third child, Hope Welker, who initially launched the legal action against her mother, settled in 2013 for $45 million because of the “high degree of distress” the litigation was causing her.

In May 2015, Bianca was appointed trustee. The trust’s main asset is a 24 per cent shareholding in Hancock Prospecting. Mrs Rinehart owns the remainder.

Folau back at fullback as one player keeps starting position in Tahs back line

By admin | 苏州桑拿

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 18: Israel Folau of the Waratahs makes a break during the round four Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Brumbies at Allianz Stadium on March 18, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) Photo: Getty ImagesDaryl Gibson says the time has come to blow up the Waratahs back line, with Israel Folau shifting to fullback and Nick Phipps dropped to the bench in what he admits is the biggest wielding of the axe in his time as NSW head coach.
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As reported by Fairfax Media, Gibson dropped a bombshell before his side’s match against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park by making six changes from a possible seven positions in the backs.

It appears mounting pressure has finally got to Gibson as he tries to get his team out of a rut with just one win to its name from four starts.

“Given the situation we’re in ??? we had to make a change,” he said. “We feel at the moment the back line we have in that combination is not clicking and so we decided to make those changes and see if we can search for a better outcome.”

Folau will shift from outside-centre to fullback; a move Gibson had said he wouldn’t consider until after the Waratahs had had their bye in round eight.

The Waratahs boss is adamant Folau will be a better player for his time at outside-centre.

“I don’t view it as a failure,” Gibson said. “I think his last two games he’s really got into it. We felt we needed to change something.

“The opportunity he’s had to play up front has made him a better player I believe. He’s got more tools in his kitbag I believe, in terms of seeing the game.

“Hopefully, we can get the right back line that is really humming and clicking.”

Andrew Kellaway has been moved from fullback to the wing, with Reece Robinson joining him on the other edge.

Rob Horne returns to No.13, a position Gibson believes will fit like an “old glove” for the Waratahs veteran, while David Horwitz assumes the No.12 jersey.

Bernard Foley has finally been cleared of concussion and will line up next to a new halfback in Jake Gordon, who comes in for the dumped Phipps.

Gibson said Phipps, who started in six of his 13 Wallabies Tests last year, was upset at the news but has backed him to bounce back and have a profound impact from the bench.

“Nick’s a champion competitor, he took it hard,” Gibson said. “I know he’ll be back. He’s probably doubly determined to get back to the form we’re more accustomed to.

“None of our three halfbacks have set the world on fire in terms of nailing down that spot. Nick, by his own admission, is playing below his high standards, so for Jake it’s an opportunity. He’s a promising young player.”

Irae Simone has also been punted from the back line, with Horwitz getting the nod, but a problematic knee may have made the decision somewhat easier for Waratahs officials.

Horwitz is no stranger to inside-centre, having started there in the first three Waratahs matches last year and against the Rebels in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Ned Hanigan’s selection at blindside breakaway in place of the injured jack Dempsey is the only change in the Waratahs forward pack.

“He’s quite an abrasive character, throws himself about, excellent ball carry and good lineout ability,” said Gibson of Hanigan. “I just felt with that combination we’re running out with him in the back row, we’ll leave our tight five as it is.”

Gibson said prop Sekope Kepu was “100 per cent” to play despite being concussed in the Waratahs’ 28-12 loss to the Brumbies on Saturday.

On the bench, hooker Damien Fitzpatrick will get his first chance in Waratahs colours since returning from a stint in France.

Fitzpatrick has taken Hugh Roach’s spot, while Cam Clark and Taqele Naiyaravoro join Phipps on a 5-3 bench to face the last-placed Rebels.

Waratahs team (1-15): Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway, Jake Gordon, Bernard Foley, Andrew Kellaway, David Horwitz, Rob Horne, Reece Robinson, Israel Folau.

Reserves: Damien Fitzpatrick, Paddy Ryan, David Lolohea, David McDuling, Michael Wells, Nick Phipps, Cam Clark, Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Russia-Trump link: Smoke? Fire? Or just a ‘big, grey cloud’ over White House?

By admin | 苏州桑拿

Washington: In keeping with the first days of spring, Tuesday is bright and sunny in Washington. But a “big, grey cloud” hangs over the White House.
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Monday’s formal confirmation that the FBI is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and any collusion by the President’s associates, promises months or longer of distractive questions that risk casting a pall on Donald Trump’s executive and legislative agenda – not to mention the legitimacy of his stunning victory in November.

“The big unknowns are: was there collusion and can the FBI prove it?” Matt Miller, a senior public affairs official at the Justice Department in the Obama years, told Fairfax Media.

“If true, it would be staggering – his legitimacy would be questioned and, possibly, people would be going to jail. And, of course, it means more damaging leaks.”

Such eventualities, were they to come to pass, are a long way off.

But in a week in which the administration hoped to revel in the Senate confirmation hearing of a new Supreme Court judge and Thursday’s anticipated House vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare, the powerful diverting force of what can now be called the Russia scandal is evident: the dominant headlines are about the FBI inquiry.

Administration talking heads were scathing following FBI director James Comey’s appearance before a congressional committee. “Conclusions in search of evidence,” Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway said.

At the same time, their insistence that the FBI would come up empty handed, sat oddly with the indecent haste with which the White House disowned old friends from the campaign trail – and even from the first weeks of its tenure.

But in disclosing that the investigation had begun as early as July 2016, Comey also revealed the paucity of information in the White House on what his sleuths have been up to in the past seven or eight months.

In the hours before Monday’s unambiguous revelation, administration aides were confidently predicting the investigation was going nowhere, that Comey would declare there had been no contact or collusion. “The Russian collusion thing has always been bullshit,” an official was quoted as saying.

The President resorted to his weapon of choice – Twitter – to attack the committee hearing on Monday and to spin the evidence in his favour as it proceeded. But afterwards he had nothing to say – uncharacteristically ignoring the questions raised in the hearing when he spoke during the evening to a campaign-style rally in Louisville, Kentucky.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer claimed to be unaware of any current White House staff being a part of the investigation. But Comey wouldn’t rule out anyone.

So is anyone safe? Trump loyalist and committee chairman Devin Nunes, who had invoked the image of the dark cloud over the White House, stunned a press gaggle with his ambivalence when asked after the hearing if Trump personally was under investigation. “I highly doubt that. But you know what? We don’t know everything.”

Here then is the breadth of Trump’s Russia-related web of influence, only some of whom are believed to be under FBI investigation and/or are likely to be called before the various congressional committees now investigating the Russia connection – along with the administration’s disowning of them in the wake of confirmation of the FBI’s investigation:

Jeff Sessions, Attorney-General: As the country’s top law officer, he was obliged to recuse himself from any Justice Department handling of the Trump/Russia investigations after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose two meetings with Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, in the course of the campaign.

Roger Stone, long-time adviser: He seemed to claim in the course of the campaign that he had advance knowledge of the leaking through WikiLeaks of troves of emails hacked from Democratic Party computers by Russian agents. (Sean Spicer: Trump and Stone speak “from time to time” but they had not done so recently.)

Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law: He had a meeting with Kislyak during the transition period and reportedly has real estate business deals with Russians.

Michael Flynn, a high-profile campaign surrogate and national security adviser: He was sacked by Trump after revelations that he lied about his conversations with Kislyak. Also under investigation as a former military officer, for accepting payment for attending a gala for the Kremlin-owned Russia Today TV network – during which he sat at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s table at a banquet. (Sean Spicer: he was just a “volunteer of the campaign.”)

Donald Trump jnr, the President’s son: He travels to Russia and famously told a New York real estate conference in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager: He was sacked after six months after revelations that he has received millions of dollars in questionable payments from pro-Russian politicians and businessmen in Ukraine and of contacting Russian interests in the course of the campaign. (Sean Spicer: “[He had only a] limited role for a very limited amount of time.”)

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: A former ExxonMobil chief executive and Putin friend, he oversaw a partnership deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars between ExxonMobil and Russian energy giant Rosneft after which Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship.

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce: In the 1990s, he served on the board of the US-Russia Investment Fund, which helped drive business in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has a stake in a Cyprus bank favoured by wealthy Russians.

Carter Page, former adviser on foreign policy: He reportedly met Kislyak during last year’s Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio; speaks to business groups in Russia and, some years ago, worked in Moscow as an investment banker. (Sean Spicer: “An individual who the president-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.”)

J.D. Gordon, former adviser on national security: A former Pentagon spokesman, he too reportedly met Kislyak in Cleveland. (Kellyanne Conway: “[He had] very attenuated contacts to the campaign. [The President] doesn’t know [him], didn’t work with [him].”)

Some who are independent of the Trump circle are dismissive about the alleged collusion with the Kremlin.

Mike Morrell, a former acting director of the CIA, is an authoritative voice in knocking it down. “There is smoke, but there is no fire at all,” he said.

But the circumstantial case put to Monday’s hearing before the House Intelligence Committee by senior Democrat Adam Schiff is seemingly sufficiently compelling for the FBI.

Here’s the scenario that Schiff, drawing on public sources, presented as, perhaps, a series of coincidences in the course of 2016, but perhaps not – and therefore warranting serious investigation.

Early July:

Page travels to Moscow with approval of the Trump campaign. In Moscow, he makes a speech critical of the US focus on democracy and corruption. Page secretly meets Igor Sechin chief executive of Rosneft, reportedly a former KGB agent and close friend of Putin and of Tillerson. Sechin reportedly offers Page brokerage fees in a deal involving the sale of a 19 per cent stake in Rosneft. Reuters reports the transaction but the name of the buyer and the amount of brokerage fees are unknown.

About the same time the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – Russian-sourced but laundered through WikiLeaks – in return for a future Trump administration watering down Washington’s criticism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and taking a stand against NATO.

Mid July:

Manafort, who had selected Page as the campaign’s Moscow go-between, attends the Republican convention with Page. Kislyak also attends – meeting Page, Gordon, Sessions and another Trump adviser, Walid Phares. The Republican platform is changed to delete references to giving “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine – and later Gordon admits that he had a hand in the revision.

Late July:

The first batch of damaging Democratic Party emails is released.

August 8:

Stone boasts publicly that he has communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and claims more documents would be coming, including an “October surprise”.

Mid August:

Stone claims to have had contact with the hacker of the Democratic computers and, soon after, makes the remarkable prediction that Clinton campaign executive John Podesta’s personal emails would soon be published – which duly happens.

November:

Post election, Trump appoints Flynn as his national security adviser, but he sacks him in February after he is revealed to have lied about his meetings with the Russian ambassador.

Comey is suspect in Democratic circles because of his 11th-hour, campaign revelation that Hillary Clinton’s controversial emails were still being investigated by the FBI.

But, just as Trump delighted in expressing confidence in Comey as the FBI boss made Clinton squirm during the campaign, Democrats now revel in Comey’s seeming determination to get to the bottom of the whole Russia business.

“I can promise you, we will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he told the committee on Monday.

Schiff left the hearing with a spring in his step, telling reporters: “It gives me some level of confidence knowing that an agency that does have the resources is devoting itself to determining just what type of co-ordination might have taken place.”